Ask The Massage Guru
with Jennifer Kerr, LMT
Deep Tissue vs. Deep Pressure
What is the Difference?
Deep Tissue Massage involves manipulation of the deep layers of muscle and fascia within the body. These are the muscles that provide the first line of structural integrity to the joints. Fascia is the membrane of collagen based connective tissue that surrounds the muscle. When the muscle is used in a way that stretches the fascia beyond it's normal tension and strength, this disrupts the muscle and fascia fibers. Instead of running in one smooth direction, the fascia fibers run in all directions and dimensions similar to a knotted piece of hair or a crumbled piece of paper. This in turn causes restrictions of movement and pain. The goal of deep tissue massage is to break up adhesions and correct structural imbalance to improve the symptoms of chronic pain and stiffness. It serves to increase mobility, flexibility and structural integrity. The techniques are used in a very slow and deliberate fashion which is meant to realign the soft tissues. The massage uses very little oil or cream and is more friction and compression based. Anyone with chronic pain, stiffness or a history of subsequent injuries would benefit from this type of treatment. Some times this kind of treatment can cause temporary soreness for a few days after treatment. When we work on the deep layers, we are bringing blood to the area through compression to nourish the muscle so that it can heal itself, sometimes, this results in minor bruising. This type of massage can feel painful in some spots but not excruciating. Always inform your therapist of tender or painful areas as well as notifying us immediately if the pressure has gone beyond your tolerance.
Deep pressure is something entirely different. This term is used to convey a deeper effleurage and all around pressure during a swedish massage. Effleurage is a long sweeping stroke that helps to improve circulation of blood and lymph and assist the body with flushing natural excess chemicals caused from muscle contractions such as lactic acid from the muscles. Some people cannot tolerate a deeper pressure massage such as this but some enjoy it. As much as this can be a personal preference, it can also help to: sedate the nervous system, reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisone in the body, support healthy immune function and assist the body with circulation problems by improving the flow of fluids throughout the body.
As with any other massage, it's important for the massage therapist to be aware of your medical history so that you can both decide if these types of treatments would be of benefit to you without causing further injury.
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